WHAT IS THAT THING YOU’RE WEARING? – Marilyn Armstrong

“How come Gibbs is wearing a coat in Arizona in the summer?”

I was talking to Garry. It was an NCIS rerun. We watch a lot of reruns, though this new fall season of TV is shaping up better than I expected, so maybe there will be new shows to watch.

The question about costumes comes up often and on various shows. One of the more common “duh” moments is when the male lead is wearing a coat and the female lead is skimpily dressed. No explanation needed for that one.

More weird is when each cast member is dressed randomly, apparently without regard for the plot. One is wearing a heavy winter coat, another a light denim jacket. A third is in shirtsleeves. Some are clothed in jeans or other casual stuff while others look ready for Wall Street … or a cocktail party. Women are supposedly hiking. Or running from or after serial killers while wearing 4-inch spike heels. My feet hurt looking at them.

Garry and I have done a tiny bit of movie “extra” work so I’m guessing it goes like this:  “Go find something that fits in wardrobe and be on set in ten.”

Everyone hustles off to wardrobe, which looks like a jumble sale or the clothing racks at the Salvation Army store. Most of the clothing in the wardrobe probably came from a second-hand source, for all I know their local Salvation Army shop.

The cast dives in looking for something that fits. As soon as they find an outfit … any outfit … they head for a changing booth, then off to be on set before someone yells at them. Stars get slightly better wardrobe or wear their own clothing. Wearing ones own clothing on TV shows and movies are quite common. I understand why.

The real question is not why everyone on a show is poorly or inappropriately dressed. It’s whether or not the people who produce the show think we won’t notice.

My theory is they don’t care if we notice or not. They don’t want to spend money on a wardrobe. They figure if you and I notice, we won’t care. In any case, we’ll keep watching. And they’re right. It’s a bottom-line world. The wardrobe is an area where corners can easily be cut.

The thing is, we do notice. You don’t need to be a professional critic or especially astute to see the incongruities of television costuming.

It’s not just costumes, either. Sloppy editing, crappy scripts, stupid plots that include blatant factual and continuity errors. Ultimately, we do stop watching. Because it’s obvious they don’t care so why should we?

You notice it on long-running shows that had good scripts and editing, but not anymore. Quality drifts away. Producers are baffled when loyal fans stop tuning in. Obvious to a normal person, but apparently incomprehensible to network executives. Disrespect for viewers is at the root of much of the illness besetting the TV industry.

They should be nicer to us. We’re, after all, the customers. Aren’t we?

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

20 thoughts on “WHAT IS THAT THING YOU’RE WEARING? – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. When I visited during 1982_1983
    Arizona natives in flea markets look like Chinese origin. Am I right?
    Wearing coats as showed in photographs. During winter Nov _Dec
    Thanksgiving, so what’s that thing they’re wearing is custom made. Costumes hahaha.

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    1. I think there is a pretty mixed population there anyway, probably including people who were Chinese. They did build the railroads, so why not? Besides, winter in Arizona isn’t REALLY winter. It’s what I call comfortable 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The stars usually get good looking clothing.

        If you check out your favorite westerns — movies or TV — especially during the 50’s — the good guys always had a GQ look. Clean shaven with their duds pressed neatly. Even their horses were shiny and clean. The bad guys looked like slobs. Unshaven with ill fighting clothing that hadn’t seen a laundry in many moons. Their horses were always lathered and dirty.

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  2. There can be little things that irritate me about some TV shows, like inappropriate costumes for the time period or the setting. But there are two things that drive me crazy that current TV shows seem to do a lot of these days. One is to jump back and forth in time and not necessarily make it obvious to the viewer (or at least to this viewer) that we’ve suddenly gone back in time. Maybe just a few days or a few decades. The other is what I call shaky camera syndrome. I guess it’s supposed to mimic how the human eye works so you feel more like you’re a part of the scene rather than just a viewer of the scene. But all that shaky camera stuff does is make me feel dizzy.

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  3. Costuming is hugely important of course. It can make or break a production. Since I cover Westerns I notice this a lot. Small budget Westerns often make fundamental errors that ruin their Movies. The most common error is clothing that is too clean – shirts that are too white – and unwrinkled. It really doesn’t matter if they used to actually dress that way. it doesn’t look authentic. And it doesn’t matter if everything is brilliant. It’s gotta look right.

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  4. I got caught up in watching (on my Amazon Prime free account) old episodes of “In The Heat of the Night”. I watched all seven seasons, which each contained at least 22 episodes. There was one episode that wasn’t accessible, and three of the four TV movies that came from that series are not available either. Nobody (not Netflix, Google Movies, Prime Video or any other site) had the videos of the movies, so I finally broke down and bought the DVD of “Season 8” which contains all four movies.

    How this ties into your post? I noticed that as the series continued, the writing changed. Established characters (well one at least) dropped out of site without explanation. And the second to the last episode was so stupid, I was appalled. Carroll O’Connor (who played the lead) did a whole lot of behind the scenes stuff…writing and editing the scripts and was executive producer after Season 2. The original producer was fired. Lots of internal crap going on apparently. One established character (the secondary lead initially) was written off after Season 4 (I believe), due to the actor’s personal life intruding on his professional one. That actor died, late in the series, of alcohol related health problems and HIV. Another actor, Hugh O’Connor (the adopted son of Carroll O’Connor) committed suicide in 1995 (after the series had ended) due to (apparently) a problem with drugs that he never overcame.

    I think long running series, although welcomed by viewers such as me, are hard on the actors, the script writers and the hierarchy of making such things. I suspect that’s why the quality of an initially really good series drops off.

    Ones I’ve watched include:
    Midsomer Murders (the lead actor literally aged out of this series. He was pretty damned old when he stopped doing the series and his replacement just isn’t as good an actor or maybe I’m just biased in favor of the original one). I’ve stopped watching those and they went from about 18 to 20 episodes per season to six. Not worth tuning in. You just get involved and are put off for a year (or more) until the next six. Bullocks to that).
    Rizzoli and Isles. Is now off the air. I suppose there are just so many stories about homicide and crime that can be explored before one runs out. I didn’t care for how they ended this one because they left at least me hanging in some respects.

    Enough hogging your comments section with this. I’m with you.

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    1. We are actually rewatching MidSomer again. I was okay with the replacement. I liked the first one better and I liked his family better and I definitely liked the dog better, but the murders got more interesting. They just did a movie about the show (20th anniversary) and the first Barnaby just did murder after murder and also showed some of the places the show was shot and the pubs. There were a total of 342 murders and I think everyone in British TV was on there for at least one show.

      Rizzoli and Isles started off good and then got increasingly stupid with each show. “In The Heat of the Night” was rife with drug issues, including the star himself and by the middle of the series, it really began to show. That was about when we stopped watching it. Even “Law and Order,” of which I was an addict, once Lennie died, I think the show pretty much died with him. They brought in all these other people, but none of them felt right. But by then, it was in its 18th year and they’d kept the shows’ quality up for all those years.

      Most of these shows are fading by the end of the second season. They never seem to know why. They could find out by ASKING THE AUDIENCE. But they never ask. They work in a vacuum.

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  5. Tonight we watched a movie where in one scene the woman was rubbing her sore feet after wearing heels and the the next scene she was running in those sand heels, sigh 😔I for one tire of those inconsistencies

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